There’s a new vibrancy to central Royal Tunbridge Wells and a new name for the library and museum which have been in hiding, behind hoardings, for much of the past three years. The Amelia Scott, will be the cultural centre at the heart of the town when it opens its doors to the public on the 28 April 2022.
The Amelia Scott project and the woman behind the name
Amelia Scott was an activist and campaigner for women’s suffrage. Miss Scott was born in 1860, and as a social reformer she did much to help young, working-class women and mothers, and was one of the first two women elected to the local council. As a councillor she championed municipal services which rather fittingly included a museum and library.
The £21million Amelia Scott project, was developed by Tunbridge Wells Borough Council in conjunction with Kent County Council (KCC). Funded by both councils and the National Lottery Heritage Fund and Arts Council England, the project brings together a range of services and cultural offerings under one roof. Inside you’ll find museum spaces, new galleries, and a new adult and children’s library, alongside tourist information and council services.
Adult education centre and social space
The building also incorporates KCC’s adult education service. Here there are bright, airy, high-ceilinged learning spaces where anything from arts and crafts to languages and IT can be studied.
Local coffee connoisseurs, Fine Grind provide a charming café that looks out to the new Courtyard Garden. The garden is one of several large-scale artworks specially commissioned for The Amelia Scott. Like the garden, all seven artworks have been inspired by the people and history of Tunbridge Wells – some functional, some purely decorative, but all unique and part of the fabric of the building.
Museum and gallery
Visitors will be able to view artefacts and artworks, many of which have been in storage for years, and sign-up for talks and workshops. The new gallery space will also allow opportunity for temporary exhibitions, starting with Henry Moore’s Threads of Influence which is on until 3 July 2022. Followed by Cabaret Mechanical Marvels, an exhibition featuring modern automata with intricate mechanisms and humorous scenes. With hands-on interactives you can expect a fun-filled family entertainment show.
Tunbridge Wells Literary Festival
In celebration of the opening, the Tunbridge Wells Literary Festival for readers and writers will take place over four days from the 29 April to the 2 May. Headlining the programme for this exciting new festival are David Baddiel and Jo Brand, both of whom will be discussing their most recent respective books, Jews Don’t Count and Born Lippy: How to Do Female.
The creative spaces and brand-new libraries in The Amelia Scott make it the perfect place for this new festival to establish its roots. As well as established names, the festival will showcase new talent and local writers across the four-day extravaganza of words, workshops, readings, panel discussions, poetry and much more.
Readers, writers and illustrators will come together to celebrate the joy, imagination and inspiration that comes from literary media, from novels and illustration to poetry and podcasts, fact and fiction, popular and niche. Other venues will also host events as part of the festival including the Assembly Hall Theatre, Trinity Theatre, The Forum and The Tunbridge Wells Hotel.
Championing alternative arts is The Amelia After Dark, an entertainment initiative that promises a late-night programme, allowing visitors to experience The Amelia Scott outside its usual opening hours, to include stand-up comedy, art workshops, master classes, and family activities too. The Amelia After Dark’s first event is Hearts, Arts and Drag Queens on the 6 May, which organisers say is an exciting, vibrant, and unconventional celebration of alternative entertainment and culture.
The Amelia Scott is open seven days a week, with several public car parks nearby and within easy walking distance of the train station in Royal Tunbridge Wells.